The sky over Wellfleet was on fire. Streaks of orange shot up from the land and pierced the late-summer night sky. A deep, dark ball of orange was growing on the horizon. As it grew the low lying clouds above it turned orange as well, until that entire section of sky was lit up like a bonfire.
I stopped casting and stood there in the pitch black, watching the orange glow. The "fire" was rising higher in the sky with each passing moment. I soon realized that Wellfleet was not up in flames, instead I was witnessing one of the most impressive moon rises I have ever seen.
The moon was a bright orange, and to be honest, it resembled the sun more than the moon. While it brought no heat with it, the moon lit up the beach so that I could see without the aid of my headlamp. It was so bright I could of played a wiffle ball game right then and there on the beach.
However the wiffle ball would have to wait for another day. Earlier in the week I had hooked up with a screamer fish while fishing from the sand, and I had a feeling that tonight would be even better.
Life in the Shallows
With help from the moonlight I could see small bait fish darting around the shallows. There were hundreds of them, and they seemed to be taking turns touching the surface with their noses.
Back on land crabs scurried around my bait bucket and prodded at my tackle bag. I wasn't sure what I had to offer them if anything, yet they were curious and courageous, and seemed to be on some sort of a mission.
There was life on this section of beach, and it was time to start casting.
Waiting for the Bass to Show
The tide had turned and I hoped big stripers would soon be moving into the shallows to feed upon all this bait that was in front of me. I had positioned myself in close proximity to a deep gouge in the sand. The gouge was an abrupt change in the underwater landscape, and I hoped it would act as a natural fish attractant.
I began casting and working the water around the gouge. The night was still and cool, and reminded me of an October evening. It was one of those rare, super silent nights, when you could hear a bass smack bait a hundred yards off in the distance. The only noise I could hear was the air moving into and out of my lungs, as well as the occasional squeak of my reel handle.
It wasn't time yet. Whatever fish there were in the area had not yet made an appearance. Perhaps they were offshore somewhere or a mile down the beach in either direction. I had a long night ahead of me, so I chose to sit on my bucket, and patiently wait for the bass to show.
It felt good to sit. I had walked a long ways in waders to arrive at this spot. Plus I had tried doing one too many pushups the day before and somehow managed to strain all the muscles from my waist to my neck. I figured that in the calm and quiet conditions, the bass themselves would let me know when they had arrived.
No more than 10 minutes after sitting down I heard an abrupt and piercing SMACK! that echoed off the dunes around me. It was a striper and he was close-no more than 15 yards away.
I jumped from my bucket and ran, actually more like waddled in my waders towards the ocean's edge. I cast my eel out into the moonlight and a few moments later I heard it plop into the salty water.
The commotion caused by the bass was still resonating through the ocean in front of me. The moonlight bounced off the ripples stirred up from the bass' tail. My eel was moving ever so slowly, directly towards where the fish had surfaced.
It was a lively eel and I could feel every kick and twist of his tail. Thud thud thud went the eel, digging for the bottom. I kept my rod tip high in the sky, prepared to drop it down within an instant, should a good size bass decide to swallow the snake.
I was expecting a hit at any second, and for the first time all night I was fully present in the moment, with no thought at all running through my mind. All was quiet, and I felt as if I could cut the anticipation in the air with the knife in my back pocket.
The bite came later than I had expected.
At first it was just a swirl, but a moment later I felt a solid jerk on the end of my line. My muscles instinctively dropped the rod tip from high in the sky, to parallel with the water. This move gives the fish a couple yards of slack line to play with, and it helps the fish suck down the entire eel.
It sometimes only lasts an instant, yet waiting for the line to become taught can be agonizing. Often the fish spits the bait before I am able to set the hook.
This time the line sat there for a moment before the fish sucked down the eel and shot off towards the horizon. The 50 pound braided line came tight against the reel handle. I lifted the rod high into the sky with an abrupt upper cut motion and watched as the rod bent back down towards the ocean's surface.
I was on with the first bass of what would become an epic night of fishing the Cape Cod surf.
I’m fortunate to have grown up on the beach, and I’ve been fishing since kindergarten. I have great family, friends and fishing experiences to be thankful for. Just being out there is enough-catching fish is just a bonus!